New effort under way to prevent graft in tsunami aid

BANGKOK, May 4 (AFP) – A top official for the UN’s tsunami recovery effort was meeting Thursday in Bangkok to launch a new drive to improve accountability for the 13 billion dollars donated to five countries hit by the deadly waves. “There was a great appreciation that accountability to donors, the affected populations, and to the citizens of the countries and to the citizens of the world, was going to be a critical objective,” Eric Schwartz, the UN’s deputy tsunami envoy, told AFP in an interview.

Some two thirds of the money donated in the world’s largest-ever outpouring of aid has already been allocated, he said.

Watchdogs like Transparency International have warned that some of the countries worst-hit by the December 2004 tsunami are also highly vulnerable to corruption.

Hardest-hit Indonesia is regularly rated as one of the most graft-prone in the world.

British-based charity Oxfam said it has suspended some of its operations in Indonesia’s tsunami-hit hit Aceh province after auditors found financial irregularities at one of its project offices.

Officials from the United Nations, the Red Cross, and from the five worst-hit countries — India, Indonesia, Maldives, Sri Lanka and Thailand — were meeting through F